Danny Leonardo Gonzalez, 50, says the reason he ran a dozen vehicles, including two loaded school buses, off of the northbound lanes of I-65, near exit 112 at 6:30 AM Friday morning (February 12, 2016), was because he snapped.
Gonzalez hit one truck, then repeatedly rammed a Cadillac, pushing it out of the way. After leaving I-65 at exit 121, “he allegedly ran over street signs and a stop sign, before his truck became stuck in a field,” according to WDRB. He was ordered out of the truck at gunpoint and placed under arrest.
“He looked like ‘this is my road and I’m taking it,’” said one of the bus drivers who swerved out of his way.
Gonzalez was “charged with wanton endangerment, criminal mischief and leaving the scene of an accident.” A puppy was found in the truck, resulting in an additional investigation of animal cruelty.
Who is the Angry Truck Driver?
Often known as road rage, it’s a problem that seems to be increasing year to year and is responsible for hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. Road rage is:
When a driver “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle”. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
One study by psychologist Jerry Deffenbacher, PhD, found high-anger drivers:
- Engage in hostile, aggressive thinking. High-anger drivers report more judgmental and disbelieving thoughts about other drivers than low-anger drivers do. For example, they’re more likely to insult other drivers or state disbelief about the way others drive. They also have more vengeful and retaliatory thoughts about other drivers, sometimes plotting ways to physically harm them.
- Take more risks on the road. High-anger drivers in his studies report more risky behavior in the prior three months than low-anger drivers do. They more often speed–usually 10 to 20 miles per hour over the speed limit–rapidly switch lanes, tailgate and enter an intersection when a light turns red.
- Get angry faster and behave more aggressively. High-anger drivers most commonly reported the following aggressive behaviors: swearing or name-calling, driving while angry, yelling at the driver or honking in anger. They were angry slightly more than two times a day and averaged just over two aggressive behaviors per day, whereas low-anger drivers were angry slightly less than once per day and averaged less than one aggressive behavior per day. This pattern held for low- and high-anger drivers who drove equally as often and an equivalent number of miles.
- Have more accidents. In driving simulations, high-anger drivers have twice as many car accidents–either from a collision with another vehicle or off-road crash. They also report more near-accidents and receive more speeding tickets. However, the two groups are equal in the number of accidents they have that involve major injuries; Deffenbacher speculated that’s because these types of crashes are a rare occurrence anyway.
- Experience more trait anger, anxiety and impulsiveness. High-anger drivers are more likely to get in a car angry, which may stem from work or home stress. They generally tend to express anger in more outward and less controlled ways as well as react impulsively.
Real Life Examples Abound
As anyone with a cell-phone can make a video, there are many behavioral examples of angry truck drivers on social media platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo. They are simply out of control and have no control of their own behavior or of how they operate their vehicle.
But even more troubling is the fact that even when they have not reached their flash-point or trigger spot, high-anger drivers drive aggressively, speed excessively, drive impulsively, have more collisions and rack up more tickets. They may confront and even try to punish other drivers by insults or aggressive driving.
How to Help the High-Anger Truck Driver
Use any available vehicle telematics to monitor for sudden braking or erratic driving.
Investigate any collision, no matter how small.
Pay attention to outside reports of aggressive driving, verbal confrontations with other drivers, or a string of tickets or collisions.
Have crystal-clear policies and standards in place covering driver expectations. (This is a big problem area in my opinion).
Do thorough background investigations and ask former employers if they would ever hire the driver again.
*Indoctrinate drivers to:
- Allow more travel time to get to your destination. It reduces stress dramatically.
- Come to a full stop at red lights and stop signs.
- Never run yellow lights.
- Let other drivers merge with you.
- Obey posted speed limits.
- Don’t ever follow other drivers too closely.
- Resist the temptation to teach someone “a lesson.”
- Concentrate on driving, not on any electronic devices, the radio, passengers, eating, or other distractions.
- Remember that you can’t control traffic, but you can control yourself, your driving, and your emotions.
*FHWA Smooth Operator Tipsheet
Thank you for reading this.